Tuesday 20 March 2018

A place of discipline, frostbite and hard labour

Paul Murphy in Tokyo

RICHARD Hinds has spent his first night as a convicted murderer in Japan's Kosuge prison, where he has been detained since he was arrested.

But the probable long-term home for Hinds is Fuchu prison in western Tokyo, which holds more foreigners than any other Japanese prison.

The website of the US embassy in Tokyo describes Fuchu as being run with "strict, military-like discipline".

"There is a prescribed way to walk, talk, eat, sit and sleep. Doing things the wrong way or at the wrong time will be punished," according to the website.

US citizen Terrance Sheard spent three years in Fuchu prison.

He says he was punished "for improper sitting position while working, looking out the window, not bowing properly and washing my face in the cell". He also claims that he was beaten for not marching properly.


Strict discipline is common to all Japanese prisons. Kazuo Ishikawa (74) spent 32 years in Chiba prison near Tokyo for a murder he maintains he didn't commit.

Reform through work is a guiding principle.

Mr Ishikawa ironed clothes for "seven hours a day for seven yen an hour" (6c). Money is used to buy goods from the prison shop, but "if you talked back to the guards you were punished", he said. Prisoners now earn about 1,000 yen (€8) in a 42-hour week.

Talking is allowed but very restricted and prisoners are not allowed to talk at all during work.

An absence of heating or a lack of it in Fuchu and other prisons, leads to what the US mission to the UN described last year as "preventable cold injuries". Frostbite is a common complaint.

Irish Independent

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